Day 2! I have to admit I missed the first talk of the day by Joe Nickell (see my previous post about goings-on at the gastropub – an early rising just wasn’t in the cards). Jen McCreight of Blag Hag led off the morning instead with a talk about how the genome works and what genetic science can and can’t do. You can never have too many cat photos in a talk on science.
We persevered through some technical difficulties so that Richard Carrier could teach us about Bayesian reasoning.
Hemant Mehta isn’t just the Friendly Atheist, he’s also a high-school math teacher. He got a standing ovation for a fantastic talk about how we can make math education more interesting and give students the ability to reason mathematically.
Spencer Greenberg discusses rationality, self-skepticism, and the unconscious influences that affect decision-making.
David Fitzgerald gives a fast-paced and hilarious introduction to Mormonism, including its most ridiculous parts (of which, it must be said, there are quite a few).
Darrel Ray presents the results of a survey on the sex lives of secularists. Out of all the talks at Skepticon, this was the only one that left me feeling cold. Some of his findings were good – I particularly liked the one that religious parents, who insist on the sole right to teach their kids about sex rather than letting the schools do it, do far less actual teaching in that regard than non-religious parents. On the other hand, when you poll the readers of Pharyngula to ask whether becoming an atheist has improved your sex life, you’ve got to expect a major self-selection bias. Also, I have to say, it annoyed me that he illustrated his talk solely with images of half-naked women. It struck me as gratuitously sexist pandering.
The last talk of the convention was JT Eberhard, who had a gut-wrenchingly personal story about mental illness: how skepticism can help us cope, and how the importance of people coming out of the closet about mental illness is the same as people coming out of the closet about atheism. There was scarcely a dry eye in the house when he was done. This talk took incredible courage, and I applaud him for it.
And last but not least: JT, Greta Christina, Jen, and of course, your humble author. With all our powers combined, religion doesn’t stand a chance. Oh yes, we will be back!
I’m on Twitter now! Follow me at @DaylightAtheism.